Open Access Technical advance

New method for detection of complex 3D fracture motion - Verification of an optical motion analysis system for biomechanical studies

Stefan Doebele1*, Sebastian Siebenlist1, Helen Vester1, Petra Wolf2, Ulrich Hagn3, Ulrich Schreiber1, Ulrich Stöckle4 and Martin Lucke1

  • * Corresponding author: Stefan Doebele

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Trauma Surgery, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Ismaninger Str. 22, 81675 Munich, Germany

2 Institut of medical statistics and epidemiology, Technische Universität München, Ismaninger Str. 22, 81675 Munich, Germany

3 Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, German Aerospace Center, DLR, Oberpfaffenhofen, Münchner Straße 20, 82234 Weßling, Germany

4 BGU Klinik Tübingen, Schnarrenbergstr. 96, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-33

Published: 9 March 2012



Fracture-healing depends on interfragmentary motion. For improved osteosynthesis and fracture-healing, the micromotion between fracture fragments is undergoing intensive research. The detection of 3D micromotions at the fracture gap still presents a challenge for conventional tactile measurement systems. Optical measurement systems may be easier to use than conventional systems, but, as yet, cannot guarantee accuracy. The purpose of this study was to validate the optical measurement system PONTOS 5M for use in biomechanical research, including measurement of micromotion.


A standardized transverse fracture model was created to detect interfragmentary motions under axial loadings of up to 200 N. Measurements were performed using the optical measurement system and compared with a conventional high-accuracy tactile system consisting of 3 standard digital dial indicators (1 μm resolution; 5 μm error limit).


We found that the deviation in the mean average motion detection between the systems was at most 5.3 μm, indicating that detection of micromotion was possible with the optical measurement system. Furthermore, we could show two considerable advantages while using the optical measurement system. Only with the optical system interfragmentary motion could be analyzed directly at the fracture gap. Furthermore, the calibration of the optical system could be performed faster, safer and easier than that of the tactile system.


The PONTOS 5 M optical measurement system appears to be a favorable alternative to previously used tactile measurement systems for biomechanical applications. Easy handling, combined with a high accuracy for 3D detection of micromotions (≤ 5 μm), suggests the likelihood of high user acceptance. This study was performed in the context of the deployment of a new implant (dynamic locking screw; Synthes, Oberdorf, Switzerland).